West Michigan’s advertising industry garners national attention


A Grand Haven-based ad agency is making an economic impact in West Michigan.

HAVEN | a creative hub is a marketing, messaging and branding company that has a different model than other companies. Founded by Bill McKendry, HAVEN | a creative hub operates on a “hub model” where it hires individuals and partners with entities such as media agencies, production companies, and contract companies across the country, in addition to its own team of 10 members.

McKendry said he manages more than 400 people, about 250 of whom work full-time, and between 10% and 20% of his talent comes from West Michigan. With a majority of its employees from outside the region, McKendry said HAVEN is able to attract people — both employees and customers — to the region.

“These people come to visit us all the time and they stay at our hotels and eat at the restaurants in the area,” he said. “The economic footprint of what we build here and the model we have is very, very unique and attracts some really unique customers.”

The hub model McKendry built attracted customers from across the country, including a former NBA player.

Allan Houston, owner of FISLL and former Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks basketball player, partners with HAVEN to manage his organization’s marketing campaign.

FISLL, Faith Integrity Sacrifice Leadership Legacy, is an organization that provides leadership training, legacy development and consumer products. FISLL was born out of the social impact that Houston and her father, who was her college basketball coach, had in their community through mentorship, life coaching and leadership development that helped inspire people from all ages.

“One day I was leaving practice when I was with the Knicks, I called my dad and said, ‘We really need to do something more formal to keep helping people,’ so FISLL is came (approximately) while I was literally on a plane and wrote the five words (Faith Integrity Sacrifice Leadership Legacy),” he said. “My dad and I are really big on three things;s make sure they’re having fun — have a really fun experience. Second, they’re really learning how to compete and be motivated for something, and the last thing is that they can learn something and walk away from it and get carried away. remembering. That’s why we created FISLL. It’s something people can remember, but it’s also something that can push us to be something more and we’ll always compete with ourselves- even once we become aware of these principles.

Since the organization’s inception in the early 2000s, Houston said it has worked with about 20 to 25 organizations around the world, including in Michigan.

After spending years building FISLL to involve offering tools and strategies to leaders and young people to develop different leadership skills – including through the Team FISLL app, which features learning courses, inspirational content , audiobooks, links to merchandise, podcasts and community feeds — Houston said he wanted to make the switch to marketing his organization.

Houston contacted McKendry after seeing a “He Gets Us” commercial on television orchestrated by HAVEN. He gets us is the the largest awareness campaign for Jesus in US history with over $100 million invested in 2022 and more to come in 2023, including two Super Bowl ads.

“As Christians who really want to make a difference in this culture, I really liked the campaign and how it moved me and my wife,” Houston said. “As we kept seeing, we were like ‘Wow, if FISLL had that kind of communication…’ For me, what made it (intriguing) was how they presented the message of He Gets Us. In a culture that wants to see, I think, faith as exclusive, she flipped it around and said, “No, it’s more inclusive than anything you can have.” That’s what intrigued me the most, how they managed to get that message across, not just in meaning, but in a visual context.

Houston and McKendry are currently working on a creative strategy to simplify the organization’s message.

In addition to FISLL and He Gets Us, McKendry is also working on launching a campaign to increase viewership of the television series “The Chosen”.

“What I would like West Michigan to understand is that we are attracting this to this market,” he said. “People come here and want to work with us here in West Michigan. It has a ripple effect. We hire people. We use a lot of talent in the market, which has a ripple effect. I want people to understand the economic impact of an agency like ours.

This story can be found in the October 17 issue of the Grand Rapids Business Journal. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox, subscribe here.


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